The Dead and the Diary: Phillips Talks "Marvel Zombies: Dead Days" and "Intersections"

Wed, May 9th, 2007 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Dave Richards, Staff Writer

"Intersections" by Sean Phillips and Duncan Fegredo

Lately, Sean Phillips has been drawing hordes of hungry super powered zombies and if you visit your local comic shop you'll certainly see that, but you'll also get a chance to see a wider variety of the critically acclaimed artist's work. CBR News spoke with Phillips about his two books that hit stores today: "Marvel Zombies: Dead Days," a one-shot prequel written by Robert Kirkman that shows the outbreak of the zombie plague in Marvel's Zombieverse and "Intersections," a collaborative art book Phillips created with Duncan Fegredo published by Image Comics.

Both Phillips and his collaborator Robert Kirkman were surprised by the immense popularity of the first "Marvel Zombies" series. "We knew we had something good, but no-one expected it to be as popular as it was," Phillips told CBR News.

"Marvel Zombies: Dead Days" is Phillips and Kirkman's first follow up to their wildly popular mini-series and since it involves the birth of the Marvel Zombieverse, the project presented a number of artistic challenges for Phillips. "This time there were many more crowd scenes (damn you Kirkman!), but they turned out to be great fun to draw," Phillips said. "The hard bit was researching all the characters. This time I also got to draw the Fantastic Four and the Thing was much more difficult to do than I thought he would be."

Pages from "Marvel Zombies: Dead Days"
Many Marvel Heroes and villains make appearances in "Dead Days," but the story focuses primarily on a core group of characters. "Most of the action revolves around the FF, Iron Man, Nick Fury and Spider-Man, but I think I got to draw almost the whole Marvel Universe," Phillips explained.

Kirkman packing the script of "Dead Days" with almost the entire Marvel Universe proved to be a double edged sword for Phillips. "As a reader, I was like great, we get to see all those Marvel characters turn into zombies," Phillips said. "As an artist, aargh, I have to draw them all!"

Since their original collaboration, Phillips has become acquainted with Kirkman's other work and has learned one thing about the writer's scripts. "I must admit before 'Marvel Zombies' I'd not read any of his books, but I'm now catching up with 'The Walking Dead' and 'Invincible' in hardcovers," Phillips said. "Turns out he's quite good at that writing stuff. I never know what to expect from one of Robert's scripts and I prefer it that way. I don't like to know the difficult things I'm going to have to draw in advance."

Pages from "Marvel Zombies: Dead Days"
Zombie fans will be happy to learn of one thing in advance about "Dead Days." "There's more gore! See Spider-man eat Mary Jane!" Phillips said. "See the Avengers eat Jarvis!"

Readers of the current "Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness" mini-series by John Layman and artist Fabiano Neves are also seeing many of their favorite Marvel characters eaten. This series isn't an alternate take on the zombie outbreak in "Dead Days." It actually serves as a complimentary story to Kirkman and Phillips' tale, providing a different perspective on the same event. "'Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness' covers the time before, during and after the prequel," Phillips explained. "From the few pages I've seen it's all pretty seamless although there is the odd little continuity mistake. I drew Spider-Man getting bit on the other shoulder and things like that. Should only bother the pickiest reader, though."

With "Marvel Zombies: Dead Days," Kirkman and Phillips have chosen to tell a prequel to their original tale, but the duo aren't finished chronicling the events of the Zombieverse. "I'll be back with Robert on more 'Marvel Zombies.' The sequel starts later this year," Phillips said. "I should start drawing the pages in between issues of 'Criminal' very soon."

Pages from "Intersections"

"Intersections," Phillips's art book, is another project he worked on in between drawing issues of "Criminal." "Duncan Fegredo and I had too much to drink and thought a book of all new paintings and drawings would be a good idea," Phillips explained. "Originally we were going to self publish a glorified Con sketchbook, but then Image kindly stepped up and offered to publish it for us.

"The idea behind the book was to do something different to our day jobs drawing comics," Phillips continued. "It started when I mailed Duncan a new Moleskine hardcover sketchbook. It was blank apart from a title page I'd collaged together. The idea was for him to draw something on the next spread and send it back to me. I'd then draw something inspired by his previous drawing and so on throughout the book. The book is also a visual diary. Some spreads relate to what was going on at the time. If I had the book with me when I did a life drawing class for example, I'd do a painting from life in the book. There's a spread about Duncan moving house and one when my wife got a new car and stuff like that. The whole printed version of the book is a facsimile of the actual sketchbook. We've printed it so you can see the ragged edges of the sketchbook including things stuck into the sketchbook poking out at the sides. The limited edition hardcover is bound in foil stamped black leatherette to mimic the actual sketchbook. We wanted to make something as close to the object of the original book as we could."

Pages from "Intersections"
Because of the unique way Phillips and Fegredo communicated with the book, "Intersections" is something that has been developing for quite awhile. "It will be two years from conception to it being out on the shelves," Phillips said. "Most of that time was taken up by actually mailing the book backwards and forwards to each other."

The illustrations that await readers of "Intersections" will run the gamut of the two artists' imaginations. "The only limit we set ourselves was no comics in the book," Phillips explained. "Although of course some of our comic drawing styles couldn't help but come through occasionally."

Coming up with images for "Intersections" wasn't a problem for Phillips. "The biggest challenge was working so small in a book that started to disintegrate slightly as we worked!" Phillips stated.

"Intersections" is available as a softcover book, a rare limited edition hardcover, and perhaps even as an ultra rare extremely limited hardcover book. Phillips said, "The actual sketchbook is available for sale at the right price."

For a seven page, fully colored and lettered preview of "Marvel Zombies: Dead Days," check out our preview from last week.

 
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